Appointment for the next foreign secretary and key envoys delayed owing to regional tensions

Sohail Mahmood

ISLAMABAD: As per reliable sources in the Foreign Office, the decision to nominate the successor of outgoing Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua has been delayed owing to the current regional tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi.

The probable candidates for replacing Janjua include High Commissioner to India, Sohail Mahmood and Ambassador to Germany, Jauhar Saleem.

Given the publicly stated Indian agenda to use the Pulwama incident in order to diplomatically ‘isolate’ Pakistan, the attention of the Foreign Office is presently focused on neutralising New Delhi’s nefarious designs.

Consequently, the sources indicate, that not only the decision to appoint the next foreign secretary has been affected by the situation, but also, a hefty plan of posting envoys to some of key diplomatic stations such as those in Geneva, Beijing, Berlin, Brussels, and Abu Dhabi has been delayed. The ambassadorial plan, which has been in works for months now, also includes capitals like Kuwait, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Nairobi, Prague, Lisbon, Athens, Dhaka, Khartoum, Algiers, Dushanbe, Budapest, Ashgabat and Khatmandu.

Jauhar Saleem

For now, it is claimed that Zaheer Aslam Janjua is slotted for Berlin, Naghmana Hashmi for Beijing, Mumtaz Baloch for Dhaka, Amna Baloch for Kuala Lumpur, Saqlain Syeda for Nairobi, Rukhsana Afzaal for Singapore, Dr Aejaz for Budapest, Sarfraz Sipra for Ashgabat, Ata Munim for Algiers, Imran Haider for Dushanbe, Haider Shah for Khatmandu, Ghulam Dastagir for Athens, K Wagan for Khartoum and Dr Mazhar Javed for Kuwait City.

While at the Consul General-level, Ayesha Ali has been penned for New York City, Dr Zafar Iqbal for Frankfurt and Khalid Majid for Jeddah.

The nominations for New Delhi, Brussels and Abu Dhabi are linked to the decision about the new foreign secretary.

In the current scenario, the chances of Dr Maleeha Lodhi –who has been doing an excellent job for getting a further extension in her four year stay as Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York City have brightened up considerably given her proactive diplomacy.

While the ambassador to China, Masood Khalid, who was earlier given multiple extensions by the previous PML-N government, is also trying hard to get another stint but his chances aren’t bright, the sources shared.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, despite her retirement this April, is, reportedly, trying to land herself in either Pakistan’s UN mission in New York City or Geneva.

Meanwhile the speculations about the new foreign secretary have gotten intense in Foreign Office circles. It is generally perceived that the appointment of Sohail Mahmood as the top diplomat will be ‘a signal for status quo’ and akin to ‘firefighting diplomacy’ while in case Jauhar Saleem is chosen to succeed Tehmina Janjua, it might signify ‘more emphasis on strategy’ and ‘added importance to economic diplomacy’.

In terms of changes in the organisational culture, it is being widely felt in the Foreign Service of Pakistan (FSP) circles that Sohail Mahmood’s elevation – given his reputation as a workaholic can promote a culture of longer hours in office and thus improve work output.